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15 June, 2024
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Cyprus at the crossroads

'If no solution is agreed upon, Cyprus will be heading for a difficult and unknown future.'



by Takis Christodoulou*

South African citizens/voters had two choices in deciding their country's future in 1990. The first option was to maintain the status quo, which would have resulted in a major civil war that would have destroyed the country and resulted in many deaths. The second option was, while there was still time, to gather around the table and decide on a future for all citizens, regardless of color, religion, gender, or language, and to agree on a new constitution for all of South Africa that would protect its citizens' rights. Cyprus, in my opinion, is faced with the same choice between two options in the upcoming election or the presidency.

In 2017, we were all made to believe that a solution for Cyprus’ unification was imminent at Crans Montana, but we did not realize it wasn't.

The first option is to maintain the status quo of Southern and Northern Cyprus and allow it to evolve into two separate independent states, with the Northern part eventually becoming a province of Turkey and eventually taking over the entire island. The second option is to press ahead with negotiations with our counterparts in order to reach a compromise mediation that will result in a possible solution and reunification of Cyprus.

The risks associated with option one, in my opinion, are as follows:

• Around 180 kilometers of the division in Cyprus become a border patrolled by Turkish troops.
• The potential withdrawal of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force monitoring the green line in Cyprus. If the UN troops withdraw, Turkish troops will take over the buffer zone, which will be absorbed as part of the North. The Republic of Cyprus lacks the capability and reinforcements to prevent this. International support will take the form of verbal opposition, which will lead nowhere.
• We must not forget that Turkey is a regional power with an estimated 85 million people and NATO's second-largest military.
• The border could be an area that could lead to conflict and reaction, which the Republic of Cyprus will not be in a position to counter.
• This political uncertainty will have an impact on attracting foreign investors which is critical to the growth of the economy of Cyprus and becomes a financial burden to the state.
• There is a possible risk of losing membership in the EU which will make Cyprus vulnerable.
• As long as the present situation exists, the entry of illegal immigrants crossing the green line cannot be controlled, allowing Cyprus to be flooded with people who offer nothing to the country and who do not bring any value to the country and its local citizens, costing the Cypriot government money.
• This also leads to the risk of our demographic being changed to the impairment of local Cypriots, becoming a financial burden to the state.
• It is maybe the last opportunity to do what is correct and in the best interest of Cyprus and its people. It is the last window of opportunity after 47 years of occupation and numerous unsuccessful occasions to reach a solution for us to do what is correct and allow the country to prosper and better the lives of all citizens under a United Cyprus.

The following are the benefits of the second option:

• A political solution that will give Cyprus the recognition of political stability allowing investors to have the comfort that whatever investment is made will be safe.
• Under a banner of a United Cyprus, it would allow the country to develop and prosper and to be accepted internationally for its contribution, that it can add value and allow it to take its place amongst the rest of the world, with pride and acceptability by the international community.
• All citizens who have been dispossessed of their properties as a result of the invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey, who are Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, should be given the opportunity to reclaim their properties affected by the invasion of Turkey.
• Freedom of movement by all citizens over the whole country eliminating the potential risk of conflict which Cyprus cannot afford.
• The green line border between, North and South, will not exist, which will allow control systems to manage entry into the country by anyone via its legal ports of entry (harbors and airports only). Stricter laws in controlling migration will dramatically reduce the flow of illegal persons under a Unified Cyprus.
• With a solution, the opportunity of becoming a member of NATO would give citizens the comfort of their rights and presence guaranteed in Cyprus under a new constitution that will protect all citizen's rights, irrespective of color, religion, gender, and language. Membership in NATO would secure the guarantee for the existence of all Cypriots.
• A unification of Cyprus will enhance and increase the respect for our membership in the EU, UN and the international world.
• This would potentially allow Cyprus to become the ‘Singapore of Europe’ which will have a major boost for the investments and the economy, benefiting the GDP of Cyprus.
• Greater stability in the governance of the country and a central government with laws that will be applicable for all, as a United Cyprus and as a member of the EU and UN.

In conclusion, voters must recognize that when they vote for whom they will support as President, they do not listen to and believe populist statements, which in reality will not allow us to move forward towards a solution but will create suspicion and mistrust amongst each other, making it impossible to reach a compromise and allow Cyprus to take its place within the international community as a united country.

To reach a final settlement many rounds of discussions will take place to address concerns from both sides and to provide protection through a new constitution on issues that are of concern. This can only be done through building a strong level of TRUST and ACCEPTABILITY from both sides with no hidden agendas or conditions laid down for discussions to take place and to listen to each other’s concerns and to address and solve them, by reaching a common goal to achieve a United Cyprus whereby all can live together in peace and prosperity, for all generations to come.

A solution will bring about stability in the future which will allow the economy of the country to grow and prosper and create a stable government that can address the interests of its citizens.

When I look and listen to what the three main candidates stand for, the successful candidate must have the understanding, acceptability, trust, determination, and willingness to get the process of reunifying Cyprus back on track with the hope of reaching an acceptable settlement through discussing all relevant issues between the two parties and in reaching a compromise from both sides. Cypriots must recognize the importance of Cyprus also becoming a member of NATO together with a settlement in a United Cyprus which will bring about the guarantees that both sides would find acceptable.

If no solution is agreed upon, Cyprus will be heading for a difficult and unknown future.

In 2017, we were all made to believe that a solution for Cyprus’ unification was imminent at Crans Montana, but we did not realize it wasn't.

The Presidential candidate in my opinion who has the commitment and determination is AVEROF NEOPHYTOU. He has the understanding and realization of what a solution would mean to Cyprus and its economy and that having a thriving economy in a United Cyprus would assist the government in the form of tax revenue to improve the lives of all its citizens in the form of safety quality new infrastructure and better personal income.

* Takis Christodoulou, a South African Cypriot, is a property developer and retired politician in South Africa. He is also a member of the Global Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Union.

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